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Music in the Park tradition continues

By Staff | Jun 21, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Lions Club members grill and serve hamburgers for the first Picnic in the Park of the 2019 season. The picnic was held prior to a performance by the International Brass Quintet.

A tradition nearly as old as Music in the Park continued Wednesday evening as young and old alike enjoyed grilled burgers before sitting down to hear selections from the International Brass Quintet.

Dubbed “Picnic in the Park,” the pre-music supper is held “two or three times” each summer, said Kathy Kirchofner, who organizes the Music in the Park series for the Rugby Lions Club.

“There’ll be one the very last day in July. And on that day, we’re doing a car show, and there will be vendors out here, so it will be fun,” Kirchofner said with a smile.

Free-will donations are accepted at the picnics “basically to raise funds for our Music in the Park,” Kirchofner indicated. “We put out donation buckets on the tables, but I’m the first to tell people this is a free event. But if you are kind enough to give us a donation, that goes towards expenses for Music in the Park.”

Kirchofner, who began organizing the events for the Lions Club 24 years ago as a new Lions Club member recalled the first Music in the Park event. ” I was told, ‘Here’s $1,000.'” From that she needed to buy ice cream, line up entertainment, supplies and pay other costs.

Kirchofner said the idea for summer evening concerts in the park came from former Tribune Publisher Mark Carlson, who died just months after making the suggestion.

“So, you never know how long you’re going to be here, but he left a legacy. And (Carlson) wanted things to be good for our small town. We don’t have a big town, but if you can leave some good things, how nice is that?” Kirchofner noted.

“I didn’t know how to do it, and nobody else was helping,” Kirchofner continued, describing the first Music in the Park events. “It was just me. So, you just did it by the seat of your pants, and you didn’t know what you were doing,” she laughed.

On rare occasions, bands traveled to Rugby from out of town, only to be rained out for the concert, and Kirchofner said the musicians weren’t paid because of that.

“And nobody complained,” Kirchofner said.

Fundraising helped the program grow throughout the years.

“Cass-Clay was here in town, and they donated a lot of their ice cream for free. So, we had to pay for cones, but ice cream was free. We just started out small, and now, look how it’s grown,” Kirchofner said.

Funding from the Rugby Park Board, Rugby Community Endowment Fund and Rugby Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors’ Bureau helps support the program these days, according to Kirchofner. The fundraising also helps keep the program free to the public.

“I really like that it’s free,” Kirchofner said. Kids come and get free ice cream. And look we get a fair crowd,” she added, pointing to the crowd of people filling picnic tables and benches and unfolding lawn chairs. ” It’s nice.”

“It’s just wonderful. Look you’ve got the kids down here (at the park play area) swinging, and every now and then, you hear a train go by,” Kirchofner smiled.

“Look how many people are here look at the camaraderie,” she added. “They bring their chairs; they’re just coming and visiting with their friends. They bring their coats if it’s cold, and umbrellas if it rains? How nice is that?”

The International Brass Quintet, which consists of American and Canadian musicians who teach at the International Music Camp, treated the crowd to a selection of classical and popular tunes after the meal.

The International Brass Quintet, which consists of American and Canadian musicians who teach at the International Music Camp, treated the crowd to a selection of classical and popular tunes after the meal.

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